The DJI Spark:
Try Fly It, You Might Like It
Drone Industry News
The hashtag-friendly slogan for the new DJI Spark is “seize the moment”, and with quick launch times of around 10 seconds, and in-app editing and sharing features, seizing the moment has never been easier. But is it worth the £519 price tag? In fact, it’s £699 for the catchily named ‘Spark Fly More Combo’ – it includes an extra battery, and a remote control, among other things, so it quite literally ‘flies more’.
What DJI say:
It boasts some flashy new technology; the spark can scan your face before taking-off from the palm of your hand, and hovering in mid-air to await your commands. And I’ll wager that you’re assuming you’ll need a controller of some sort; then think again. Remember the bit about scanning you face? Well now your drone recognises you as its master (like a new-born duckling), and will respond to a series of pre-programmed, directional hand gestures and signals to take a photograph. However, DJI say that we shouldn’t think of it as a selfie-drone.
It also incorporates lots of the best tech from its bigger, and more expensive predecessors. This includes collision avoidance, automatic return to home, comprehensive positioning systems, and flight safety notifications.
But arguably the most powerful selling point, given that the Spark is targeted exclusively towards the consumer market, is that it’s packed full of fantastic automated features. This gives the amateur pilot the ability to pull off some otherwise skilful shots at the touch of a pre-set flight mode. These modes include, ascending with the camera pointing down, flying backward and upward (called a ‘dronie’ by DJI), circling your target, spiralling upward while focusing on your target, and an array of tracking and targeted manoeuvres.
Here comes the little ‘but’ …
The camera isn’t the best, but this must be expected in a drone of this size. And although DJI have compromised on performance in favour of size (the camera maxes out at 12 megapixels, and 1080p high-def videos), there are some fun added extras too. The ‘shallow focus’ setting, allows you to create some very professional looking background bokeh (blurring out the background behind the subject). For Apple users, this is akin to the Portrait mode on the iPhone 7 Plus. Which means its pretty good for some expert level selfies… just saying. Meanwhile, the ‘Pano’ setting allows you to create vertical and horizontal panoramas, again, at the touch of a button.
The Spark’s breathtaking intro video from DJI
What the testers are saying:
For now, the automated flight features (such as the aforementioned spiral, or ‘helix’ as DJI call it, and ‘dronie’), don’t allow you to set maximum parameters, so they are not as effortless as advertised – in fact one reviewer was a little alarmed by the speed at which the drone covered the vast expanse of a football field. However, DJI has undertaken to fix this issue in future updates.
Certainly, the top selling point of this drone is its simplicity, and some early reviews suggest that things are little more complicated than the marketing would suggest. For instance, the DJI Go app is the same app used for the pro level drones, and probably could have been streamlined for the Spark. Hence, it may take a bit of time and study for beginners to master their drone.
On the other hand, the Palm Control provides a gentler learning curve, which no other drone can offer (but just watch your fingers), and the remoter controller (bought as part of the enhanced package), can be used to fly manually.
It looks as though the Pano and Shallow Focus results can be hit and miss, with distortion at the edge of the frame proving particularly problematic. Whilst the 2-axis gimble (in place of the preferable 3-axis gimble) relies on software to dampen yaw movements, which only does an ‘ok job’.
However, these are relatively minor gripes for the price (except the finger incident), many of which can be resolved by software updates, or buying the enhanced package.
At half the weight, size, and price of its slightly older sibling, the Mavic Pro, this latest offering from DJI will certainly appeal to its target audience. It’s simpler, quicker to launch, easier to use, and more discreet than its predecessors, all of which will appeal to first time droners (…droners?…). And despite DJIs protests that this is not a ‘selfie drone’, it must be the best ‘selfie drone’ on the market (yes, there is more than one pocket sized drone).
If you’re going to buy the DJI Spark, then go all in and purchase the ‘Fly More Combo’. Without the propeller guards, some of the cooler features are not as safe, and the remote controller, and extra battery allows you to fly further for longer. On the whole the DJI Spark seems like the perfect, toe-dipping drone, with many of the features and functionality of DJIs bigger drones, but in a less intimidating package, AND with a far more attractive price tag…. then again you might decide to hold out for the next one, which, the way DJI is going, will likely be the size of a matchbox, with a 4k camera, and a voice control.
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